The best ecology books

Who picked these books? Meet our 70 experts.

70 authors created a book list connected to ecology, and here are their favorite ecology books.
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Book cover of Deep Ecology for the Twenty-First Century: Readings on the Philosophy and Practice of the New Environmentalism

Rex Weyler Author Of Greenpeace: The Inside Story

From the list on ecology from an ecologist.

Who am I?

Rex Weyler is a writer and ecologist. His books include Blood of the Land, a history of indigenous American nations, nominated for a Pulitzer Prize; Greenpeace: The Inside Story, a finalist for the BC Book Award and the Shaughnessy-Cohen Award for Political Writing; and The Jesus Sayings, a deconstruction of first-century history, a finalist for the BC Book Award. In the 1970s, Weyler was a co-founder of Greenpeace International and editor of the Greenpeace Chronicles. He served on campaigns to preserve rivers and forests, and to stop whaling, sealing, and toxic dumping.

Rex's book list on ecology from an ecologist

Discover why each book is one of Rex's favorite books.

Why did Rex love this book?

The best available summary of Deep Ecology. An anthology of seminal essays inspired by Norwegian philosopher and activist Arne Naess, who sought to create an ecological paradigm shift in society – his work influenced the Greenpeace founders. This collection includes essays by Naess, Chellis Glendinning, Gary Snyder, Dolores LaChapelle, Paul Shepard, and others, who examine the ecological tradition from Spinoza and Thoreau to Santayana and ecofeminism. 

By George Sessions,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Deep Ecology for the Twenty-First Century as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Every day, in newspapers and on television, we read and hear about the ongoing destruction of the environment: the greenhouse effect, ozone layer depletion, deforestation, and air and water pollution. Deep Ecology offers a solution to the environmental crisis through a radical shift in human consciousness—a fundamental change in the way people relate with the environment. Instead of thinking of nature as a resource to be used for human needs, Deep Ecology argues that the true value of nature is intrinsic and independent of its utility. Emerging in the 1980s as an influential philosophical, social, and political movement, Deep Ecology…


Be Holding

By Ross Gay,

Book cover of Be Holding: A Poem

Leah Naomi Green Author Of The More Extravagant Feast: Poems

From the list on spiritual ecological thought.

Who am I?

Leah Naomi Green is the author of The More Extravagant Feast, selected by Li-Young Lee for the Walt Whitman Award of The Academy of American Poets. She received the 2021 Lucille Clifton Legacy Award for compassion, courage, truth-telling, and commitment to justice, as well an Academy of American Poets 2021 Treehouse Climate Action Poetry Prize. The More Extravagant Feast was named “one of the best books of 2020” by The Boston Globe, is a silver winner of the 2020 Nautilus Book Awards, and was featured on NPR’s “All Things Considered”. She lives in Rockbridge County, Virginia where she and her family homestead and grow or find much of their food for the year.

Leah's book list on spiritual ecological thought

Discover why each book is one of Leah's favorite books.

Why did Leah love this book?

In this book-length poem, Ross Gay manages to “talk” to the reader intimately without once “mansplaning” the way that so much of the tradition of “nature writing” has, for centuries, done. With the refrains of “what am I seeing?” and “what am I practicing?” Gay creates what feels like a genuine conversation with the reader, allowing me to ask myself the same questions as I read, to form my own thoughts and feelings, rather than passively receiving his.

In what I find to be his best work yet, Gay offers a genuine invitation to the reader to join into the seeing and feeling and meaning-making, thus making the meaning-making infinitely more meaningful. Be Holding is like a personal letter taken from its envelope, but somehow intended for all of us. It is as intricate as it is accessible and clear.

By Ross Gay,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Be Holding as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of PEN America Jean Stein Award

Through a kind of lyric research, or lyric meditation, Be Holding connects Dr. J's famously impossible move from the 1980 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers to pick-up basketball and the flying Igbo and the Middle Passage, to photography and surveillance and state violence, to music and personal histories of flight and familial love.

Be Holding wonders how the imagination, or how our looking, might make us, or bring us, closer to each other. How our looking might make us reach for each other. And might make us be reaching for each…


The Eternal Frontier

By Tim Flannery,

Book cover of The Eternal Frontier: An Ecological History of North America and Its Peoples

Alan Smale Author Of Clash of Eagles

From the list on ancient North America.

Who am I?

My twin passions are science and history, and I try to have it both ways by writing a mix of alternate history and hard SF. I grew up in Yorkshire, England, enjoyed lots of family vacations at Hadrian’s Wall and other Roman-rich areas, and acquired degrees in Physics and Astrophysics from Oxford, but I’ve lived in the US for over half my life and now work for NASA (studying black holes, neutron stars, and other bizarre celestial objects). My novella of a Roman invasion of ancient America, A Clash of Eagles, won the Sidewise Award for Alternate History and formed the starting point for my Clash of Eagles trilogy from Del Rey, and Hot Moon, my alternate-Apollo thriller set entirely on and around the Moon, will be published by CAEZIK SF & Fantasy in 2022.

Alan's book list on ancient North America

Discover why each book is one of Alan's favorite books.

Why did Alan love this book?

Finally, expanding outward even further in space and time and going far beyond my Clash of Eagles series source material, Tim Flannery’s book covers the entire geological, ecological, and (yes) human history of the North American continent, from its formative years 65 million years ago through to its “discovery” by Europeans, and the effects those colonizing influences had on the peoples, flora, and fauna. I learned so much from this book that I still think about it almost daily, and especially so when I travel around today’s US in all its depth, breadth, and glory.

By Tim Flannery,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Eternal Frontier as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In The Eternal Frontier, world-renowned scientist and historian Tim Flannery tells the unforgettable story of the geological and biological evolution of the North American continent, from the time of the asteroid strike that ended the age of dinosaurs 65 million years ago, to the present day. Flannery describes the development of North America's deciduous forests and other flora, and tracks the immigration and emigration of various animals to and from Europe, Asia, and South America, showing how plant and animal species have either adapted or become extinct. The story takes in the massive changes wrought by the ice ages and…


Steady-State Economics

By Herman E. Daly,

Book cover of Steady-State Economics

Rex Weyler Author Of Greenpeace: The Inside Story

From the list on ecology from an ecologist.

Who am I?

Rex Weyler is a writer and ecologist. His books include Blood of the Land, a history of indigenous American nations, nominated for a Pulitzer Prize; Greenpeace: The Inside Story, a finalist for the BC Book Award and the Shaughnessy-Cohen Award for Political Writing; and The Jesus Sayings, a deconstruction of first-century history, a finalist for the BC Book Award. In the 1970s, Weyler was a co-founder of Greenpeace International and editor of the Greenpeace Chronicles. He served on campaigns to preserve rivers and forests, and to stop whaling, sealing, and toxic dumping.

Rex's book list on ecology from an ecologist

Discover why each book is one of Rex's favorite books.

Why did Rex love this book?

Want solutions? Start with our failed economic system. Daly, a World Bank senior economist, examines the economic restructuring necessary to live on a finite planet. He corrects the errors of classic economics by showing that a human economy is a subsystem embedded in a finite, fragile ecosystem, maintained by extracting limited resources and exporting waste. A steady-state economy accounts for the limits of both resources and waste. 

By Herman E. Daly,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Steady-State Economics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


First published in 1977, this volume caused a sensation because of Daly's radical view that "enough is best." Today, his ideas are recognized as the key to sustainable development, and Steady-State Economics is universally acknowledged as the leading book on the economics of sustainability.


Overshoot

By William R. Catton,

Book cover of Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change

Max Wilbert Author Of Bright Green Lies: How the Environmental Movement Lost Its Way and What We Can Do about It

From the list on on environmental books.

Who am I?

I’m a wilderness guide, community organizer, and writer focused on stopping the destruction of the planet. My work, which has appeared in The New York Times and been recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists, has taken me to the Siberian Arctic to document climate change research, to the Philippines to work with grassroots communities defending tropical rainforests, and to Nevada where I began a protest movement against an open-pit lithium mine.

Max's book list on on environmental books

Discover why each book is one of Max's favorite books.

Why did Max love this book?

The basic laws of ecology should be taught to every child in the world. Food webs, watersheds, the hydrological and carbon cycles, population dynamics, and sustainable harvest are fundamental to our survival. 

Catton’s book explores population ecology and applies these lessons to human beings. He rejects racist historical tropes and misinformation alike, laying out the reality of human overshoot of the planet’s carrying capacity. This book is sobering, and should be required reading for every person in any position of leadership in the world today.

By William R. Catton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Overshoot as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Our day-to-day experiences over the past decade have taught us that there must be limits to our tremendous appetite for energy, natural resources, and consumer goods. Even utility and oil companies now promote conservation in the face of demands for dwindling energy reserves. And for years some biologists have warned us of the direct correlation between scarcity and population growth. These scientists see an appalling future riding the tidal wave of a worldwide growth of population and technology.

 

A calm but unflinching realist, Catton suggests that we cannot stop this wave - for we have already overshot the Earth's capacity…


Marx's Ecology

By John Bellamy Foster,

Book cover of Marx's Ecology: Materialism and Nature

Thomas Kemple Author Of Marx’s Wager: Das Kapital and Classical Sociology

From the list on Marx’s Capital and its relevance today.

Who am I?

27 years of teaching social and cultural theory to undergraduate and graduate students at the University of British Columbia have shaped the way I think about challenging works like Marx’s Capital. I’ve come to approach the classics of sociology not just as systematic scientific treatises, but also as literary works with a beginning, middle, and end, and as political projects designed to seize upon the power of words for practical purposes. 

Thomas' book list on Marx’s Capital and its relevance today

Discover why each book is one of Thomas' favorite books.

Why did Thomas love this book?

This book rocked my theory-world when I finally settled down to read it, long after it was first published and everybody was talking about it. Besides developing Marx’s idea of the ‘metabolic rift’ in the social-natural metabolism, brought on by the industrial revolution, it also traces Marx’s inspiration in the soil sciences of his day, ancient materialist philosophies of nature, and the disregard or distortion of Marx’s ecology during the Soviet era and in the West.  

By John Bellamy Foster,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Marx's Ecology as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Progress requires the conquest of nature. Or does it? This new account overturns conventional interpretations of Marx and in the process outlines a more rational approach to the current environmental crisis. Marx, it is often assumed, cared only about industrial growth and the development of economic forces. John Bellamy Foster examines Marx's neglected writings on capitalist agriculture and soil ecology, philosophical naturalism, and evolutionary theory. He shows that Marx, known as a powerful critic of capitalist society, was also deeply concerned with the changing human relationship to nature. Marx's Ecology covers many other thinkers, including Epicurus, Charles Darwin, Thomas Malthus,…


Rebugging the Planet

By Vicki Hird,

Book cover of Rebugging the Planet: The Remarkable Things That Insects (and Other Invertebrates) Do - And Why We Need to Love Them More

Dave Goulson Author Of The Garden Jungle

From the list on rewilding and the biodiversity crisis.

Who am I?

I have loved insects and other wildlife for all of my life. I am now a professor of Biology at the University of Sussex, UK, specializing in bee ecology. I have published more than 400 scientific articles on the ecology and conservation of bumblebees and other insects, plus seven books, including the Sunday Times bestsellers A Sting in the Tale (2013), The Garden Jungle (2019), and Silent Earth (2021). They’ve been translated into 20 languages and sold over half a million copies. I also founded the Bumblebee Conservation Trust in 2006, a charity that has grown to 12,000 members. 

Dave's book list on rewilding and the biodiversity crisis

Discover why each book is one of Dave's favorite books.

Why did Dave love this book?

Vicki is a fellow insect enthusiast, so perhaps it is inevitable that I would love her new book on the wonders of the ‘bug’ world. Insects are vital, pollinating crops and wildflowers, keeping soils healthy, recycling leaves, dung and dead bodies, and controlling crop pests. Love them or loathe them, we all need them. This book gives lots of practical tips as to what you can do to encourage bugs in your space. 

By Vicki Hird,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rebugging the Planet as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Foreword by Gillian Burke

This is a lovely little book that could and should have a big impact....Let's all get rebugging right away! Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Meet the intelligent insects, marvellous minibeasts and inspirational invertebrates that bring life to our planet. Discover how we can 'rebug' our attitudes and embrace these brilliant, essential insects, so that we can avoid an 'insectageddon' and help each other thrive.

In Rebugging the Planet, Vicki Hird shows us that bugs are beautiful, inventive

and economically invaluable. They are also responsible for pollinating plants,

feeding birds, defending crops and cleaning water systems. But with 40% of…


Monster of God

By David Quammen,

Book cover of Monster of God: The Man-Eating Predator in the Jungles of History and the Mind

Brooks B. Yeager Author Of Jaguar's Claw

From the list on environmental and cli-fi adventures.

Who am I?

I learned to love nature early, from the tadpoles in the swamps of ‘my’ New York woods to the scarlet tanagers that came through in the spring and the old tilted oak where I sometimes slept. In college in California, I became acquainted with the myriad ways in which we humans are still degrading the natural environment that is the prime source of our worldly and spiritual subsistence. Ever since, I’ve worked to protect the natural world, first as an activist, then a government official, then as a diplomat, and now as I write fictional intrigues set in the world we all need to conserve. I hope you’ll enjoy this latest effort.

Brooks' book list on environmental and cli-fi adventures

Discover why each book is one of Brooks' favorite books.

Why did Brooks love this book?

If you’ve ever felt the sensation of being hunted by a predator who’s higher on the food chain than you are – a man-eater – Quammen's book will bring it all back to you. If you haven’t had that particular pleasure, the book’s discussion of the planet’s most exotic predators – crocodiles, lions, bears, and tigers – will fascinate and educate you. The focus here is not just the ‘big, fierce animals,’ but also the human communities that interact with them, fear them, track them, and try to understand them. In one desperately drawn passage, Quammen describes a tracker ‘who followed a single tiger for more than forty-five days... feeding himself from the leftovers of the tiger’s kills when his food stocks got low.’ Wow. 

By David Quammen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Monster of God as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The beasts that have always ruled our jungles and our nightmares are dying. What will become of us without them? For millennia, lions, tigers, and their man-eating kin have kept our dark, scary forests dark and scary, and their predatory majesty has been the stuff of folklore. But by the year 2150 big predators may only exist on the other side of glass barriers and chain-link fences. Their gradual disappearance is changing the very nature of our existence. We no longer occupy an intermediate position on the food chain; instead we survey it invulnerably from aboveso far above that we…


The Wolf's Tooth

By Cristina Eisenberg,

Book cover of The Wolf's Tooth: Keystone Predators, Trophic Cascades, and Biodiversity

Michelle L. Lute

From the list on American wild canids.

Who am I?

Michelle Lute is a conservation scientist and advocate with fifteen years’ experience in biodiversity conservation on public and private lands around the globe. She dedicates her professional life to promoting human-wildlife coexistence through effective public engagement, equitable participatory processes, and evidence-based decision-making. Michelle is the National Carnivore Conservation Manager for Project Coyote whose mission is to promote compassionate conservation and coexistence between people and wildlife through education, science and advocacy.

Michelle's book list on American wild canids

Discover why each book is one of Michelle's favorite books.

Why did Michelle love this book?

If it’s not already abundantly clear, humans can’t help but argue about wild canids and other carnivores. The concept of trophic cascades, whereby the impacts of apex predators cascade throughout wood febs and whole ecosystems, is no exception. Many people celebrate wolves’ contributions to a wilder Yellowstone ecosystem. Others argue that trophic cascades are limited to certain landscapes. Cristina Eisenberg is a conservation biologist with a writer’s bent and will help you understand the science behind this important topic.

By Cristina Eisenberg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Wolf's Tooth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Scientist and author Cristina Eisenberg presents a fascinating and wide-ranging look at the dramatic ecological consequences of predator removal (and return) as she explores the concept of 'trophic cascades' and the role of top predators in regulating ecosystems. She shows how and why animals such as wolves, sea otters, and sharks exert such a disproportionate influence on their environment, and considers how this notion can help provide practical solutions for restoring ecosystem health and functioning. Eisenberg examines both general concepts and specific issues, sharing accounts from her own fieldwork to illustrate and bring to life the ideas she presents. She…


Black Faces, White Spaces

By Carolyn Finney,

Book cover of Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors

Jenny Price Author Of Stop Saving the Planet!: An Environmentalist Manifesto

From the list on revolutionize how Americans think about nature.

Who am I?

I’m a writer, artist, and historian, and I’ve spent much of my career trying to blow up the powerful American definition of environment as a non-human world “out there”, and to ask how it’s allowed environmentalists, Exxon, and the EPA alike to refuse to take responsibility for how we inhabit environments. Along the way, I’ve written Flight Maps: Adventures with Nature in Modern America and "Thirteen Ways of Seeing Nature in LA"; co-founded the LA Urban Rangers public art collective; and co-created the “Our Malibu Beaches” phone app. I currently live in St. Louis, where I’m a Research Fellow at the Sam Fox School at Washington University-St. Louis. 

Jenny's book list on revolutionize how Americans think about nature

Discover why each book is one of Jenny's favorite books.

Why did Jenny love this book?

American nature-lovers are just Americans who love nature? Not exactly, Finney reminds us. She showcases the baked-in whiteness of American environmentalist ideas and advocacy historically, and carves out space for how African Americans have imagined, enjoyed, experienced, and fought for the “great outdoors”—and draws on both scholarship and her own experiences to do so.

By Carolyn Finney,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Black Faces, White Spaces as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Why are African Americans so underrepresented when it comes to interest in nature, outdoor recreation, and environmentalism? In this thought-provoking study, Carolyn Finney looks beyond the discourse of the environmental justice movement to examine how the natural environment has been understood, commodified, and represented by both white and black Americans. Bridging the fields of environmental history, cultural studies, critical race studies, and geography, Finney argues that the legacies of slavery, Jim Crow, and racial violence have shaped cultural understandings of the ""great outdoors"" and determined who should and can have access to natural spaces.

Drawing on a variety of sources…


The Undaunted Garden

By Lauren Springer,

Book cover of The Undaunted Garden: Planting for Weather-Resilient Beauty

John Greenlee Author Of The American Meadow Garden: Creating a Natural Alternative to the Traditional Lawn

From the list on creating successful meadow and grass garden ecology.

Who am I?

As an expert in grass ecology and champion of sustainable design, John Greenlee has created meadows not only in the United States, but throughout the world for over 30 years. Some of his most notable gardens include the Getty Museum, the Norton Simon Museum in Los Angeles, and the savannas at Walt Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida. In addition to his consulting and design work for commercial and residential clients, John Greenlee enjoys sharing his knowledge by giving several presentations and lectures throughout the year on the use of natural lawns, native grasses, and meadow restoration.

John's book list on creating successful meadow and grass garden ecology

Discover why each book is one of John's favorite books.

Why did John love this book?

The Undaunted Garden is one of the most important garden books ever written for American gardens.

I reference it constantly and you will too. While focusing on the challenges of gardening on the front range of North America, this book is valuable for any serious gardener gardening anywhere in America as the principles laid out in this book are useful no matter the size of your garden or where you are gardening.

I think the photography is superb and help tell the story of Lauren’s journey creating beautiful and sustainable gardens over the years.

By Lauren Springer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Undaunted Garden as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Offers advice on planning a garden that is attractive during all four seasons, and recommends a variety of plants that offer beauty and resilience in a variety of conditions


Fathoms

By Rebecca Giggs,

Book cover of Fathoms: The World in the Whale

Jim Lynch Author Of The Highest Tide

From the list on cool facts about whales.

Who am I?

I began as a journalist and turned into a novelist who uses extensive research to build my imagined stories. So, I tend to end up writing novels about whatever is fascinating enough to send me down research rabbit holes. I’m finishing a novel now about the wonders and mysteries of whales and the researchers who commit their lives to try to understand them. During the last three years, I have interviewed whale researchers, gone on expeditions with them, and have read countless scientific papers and quite a few books on whales. These books I’m recommending here were some of my favorites.

Jim's book list on cool facts about whales

Discover why each book is one of Jim's favorite books.

Why did Jim love this book?

Giggs is first and foremost a great writer. Her powers of description and analysis pop off the page. The first 100 pages of Fathoms are particularly strong as she zeroes in on disturbing and fascinating topics such as all our garbage showing up in the bellies of stranded whales or scavenger ecosystems created by whale carcasses once they fall to the ocean floor.

By Rebecca Giggs,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Fathoms as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE ANDREW CARNEGIE MEDAL FOR EXCELLENCE IN NONFICTION
WINNER OF THE NIB LITERARY AWARD
FINALIST FOR THE KIRKUS PRIZE FOR NONFICTION
HIGHLY COMMENDED IN THE WAINWRIGHT PRIZE FOR WRITING ON GLOBAL CONSERVATION

A SUNDAY INDEPENDENT BOOK OF THE YEAR

'There is a kind of hauntedness in wild animals today: a spectre related to environmental change ... Our fear is that the unseen spirits that move in them are ours. Once more, animals are a moral force.'

When Rebecca Giggs encountered a humpback whale stranded on her local beach in Australia, she began to wonder how the lives of…


Book cover of Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet

Leah Naomi Green Author Of The More Extravagant Feast: Poems

From the list on spiritual ecological thought.

Who am I?

Leah Naomi Green is the author of The More Extravagant Feast, selected by Li-Young Lee for the Walt Whitman Award of The Academy of American Poets. She received the 2021 Lucille Clifton Legacy Award for compassion, courage, truth-telling, and commitment to justice, as well an Academy of American Poets 2021 Treehouse Climate Action Poetry Prize. The More Extravagant Feast was named “one of the best books of 2020” by The Boston Globe, is a silver winner of the 2020 Nautilus Book Awards, and was featured on NPR’s “All Things Considered”. She lives in Rockbridge County, Virginia where she and her family homestead and grow or find much of their food for the year.

Leah's book list on spiritual ecological thought

Discover why each book is one of Leah's favorite books.

Why did Leah love this book?

This is the most recent compilation of Thich Nhat Hanh’s thoughts, experiences, and teachings on humans within a more-than-human world, edited and with commentary by his brilliant, passionate student, Sister True Dedication. As always, Thich Nhat Hanh presents very practicable tools for cultural and personal awakening (one in the same). As always, he presents insight rooted more firmly in the ground of being than any other mind I have ever encountered. If there is a path by which the world and its inhabitants will thrive, it is the path that Thich Nhat Hanh walks.

By Thich Nhat Hanh,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BESTSELLER

“When you wake up and you see that the Earth is not just the environment, the Earth is us, you touch the nature of interbeing. And at that moment you can have real communication with the Earth… We have to wake up together. And if we wake up together, then we have a chance. Our way of living our life and planning our future has led us into this situation. And now we need to look deeply to find a way out, not only as individuals, but as a collective, a species.”

-- Thich Nhat Hanh

We face…


Book cover of The Origins of the Boxer Uprising

David G. Atwill Author Of Sources in Chinese History: Diverse Perspectives from 1644 to the Present

From the list on 19th-century China’s rebellions, uprisings, and wars.

Who am I?

Just after graduating from college in 1989, I spent the year teaching in the city of Kunming – a “small” city of several million in the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan. In some ways, I have never left. My year there set me on a life-long trajectory of exploring some of China’s most remote corners from Tibet to Beijing. Intrigued by the way China’s borderlands reflected China’s diverse ethnic, religious, and cultural traditions, I eventually wrote my first book The Chinese Sultanate on the Panthay Rebellion (1856-1872). Today I teach at Penn State University seeking to share my experiences in China (and the world) with my students in the university classroom.

David's book list on 19th-century China’s rebellions, uprisings, and wars

Discover why each book is one of David's favorite books.

Why did David love this book?

If the White Lotus marks the beginning of China’s rebellious nineteenth century, the Boxer Uprising (1900-1) emphatically brought it to its end. This account of the Boxers, written by scholar Joseph Esherick, although the oldest of the books recommended here, almost certainly served as their intellectual forerunner. Esherick’s iconoclastic approach upended traditional descriptions of the event and indeed transformed the way that scholars of China viewed rebellions as a whole. Moving away from the well-worn western perspective of the very missionaries and diplomats who were the targets of the anti-foreign, anti-Christian, and anti-modern movement, Esherick offers a richly textured description of the Boxer’s fantastical religious impulses and harsh social context. In this way, The Origins of the Boxer Uprising rich and vivid telling of the Boxer’s “Society of Harmony and Justice” is as exciting today as the day it was published.

By Joseph W. Esherick,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Origins of the Boxer Uprising as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the summer of 1900, bands of peasant youths from the villages of north China streamed into Beijing to besiege the foreign legations, attracting the attention of the entire world. Joseph Esherick reconstructs the early history of the Boxers, challenging the traditional view that they grew from earlier anti-dynastic sects, and stressing instead the impact of social ecology and popular culture.


The Gardener's Guide to Prairie Plants

By Neil Diboll, Hilary Cox,

Book cover of The Gardener's Guide to Prairie Plants

John Greenlee Author Of The American Meadow Garden: Creating a Natural Alternative to the Traditional Lawn

From the list on creating successful meadow and grass garden ecology.

Who am I?

As an expert in grass ecology and champion of sustainable design, John Greenlee has created meadows not only in the United States, but throughout the world for over 30 years. Some of his most notable gardens include the Getty Museum, the Norton Simon Museum in Los Angeles, and the savannas at Walt Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida. In addition to his consulting and design work for commercial and residential clients, John Greenlee enjoys sharing his knowledge by giving several presentations and lectures throughout the year on the use of natural lawns, native grasses, and meadow restoration.

John's book list on creating successful meadow and grass garden ecology

Discover why each book is one of John's favorite books.

Why did John love this book?

I’ve been waiting almost thirty years for this book to show up, but it was clearly worth the wait. It is without a doubt the most important reference on creating prairies and identifying prairie plants.

I wasn’t disappointed and you won’t be either. My friend Neil Diboll is perhaps the most knowledgeable prairie pundit in North America. He has always been one of my greatest inspirations and together we have seen many of the endangered prairies across North America.

By Neil Diboll, Hilary Cox,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Gardener's Guide to Prairie Plants as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A comprehensive and beautifully illustrated reference for all gardeners passionate about native plants and prairie restoration.

The Gardener's Guide to Prairie Plants is the one-stop compendium for all gardeners aspiring to use native prairie plants in their gardens. Neil Diboll and Hilary Cox-two renowned prairie gardeners-compile more than four decades' worth of research to offer a wide-ranging and definitive reference for starting and maintaining prairie and meadow gardens and restorations. Alongside detailed synopses of plant life cycles, meticulous range maps, and sweeping overviews of natural history, Diboll and Cox also include photographs of 148 prairie plants in every stage of…


Why Birds Matter

By Cagan H. Sekercioglu (editor), Daniel G. Wenny (editor), Christopher J. Whelan (editor)

Book cover of Why Birds Matter: Avian Ecological Function and Ecosystem Services

Anders Gyllenhaal Author Of A Wing and a Prayer: The Race to Save Our Vanishing Birds

From the list on what’s happening to our birds.

Who am I?

A decade ago, we were living in Washington, D.C., wrapped up as journalists in the daily news cycle. We began camping to get out of the city and quickly became fascinated with birds. We’ve been writing about birds ever since, on our website, FlyingLessons.US: What we’re learning from the birds,” and now with a book about the extraordinary work across the hemisphere to save birds. There’s a storehouse of books, articles and guides on birdwatching, but very little on what’s happening to bird populations overall. We believe the story of birds is one of the best ways to open a window on the environmental issues that are among the pivotal topics of our time.

Anders' book list on what’s happening to our birds

Discover why each book is one of Anders' favorite books.

Why did Anders love this book?

This is not an easy read, built on a deep academic tour of the evidence of how birds contribute to this world. But it makes up for the tough sledding by providing huge doses of detail that make the case for why we cannot let birds continue to wither away.

Birds consume, for instance, 400 to 500 tons of insects each year across the earth. They contribute to billions of dollars in value when you add up all the ways we rely on their pollinating, seed dispersal, garbage collection – not to mention the outdoor activities they provide people.

When bird species are pulled out of the equation, as vultures were in India for a time, the results can be catastrophic – leading to disease, death, and enormous health costs. By the time you finish this book, you’ll be ready to do whatever it takes to help stop the steady…

By Cagan H. Sekercioglu (editor), Daniel G. Wenny (editor), Christopher J. Whelan (editor)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Why Birds Matter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For over one hundred years, ornithologists and amateur birders have jointly campaigned for the conservation of bird species, documenting not only birds' beauty and extraordinary diversity, but also their importance to ecosystems worldwide. But while these avian enthusiasts have noted that birds eat fruit, carrion, and pests; spread seed and fertilizer; and pollinate plants, among other services, they have rarely asked what birds are worth in economic terms. In Why Birds Matter, an international collection of ornithologists, botanists, ecologists, conservation biologists, and environmental economists seeks to quantify avian ecosystem services the myriad benefits that birds provide to humans. The first…


One Midsummer's Day

By Mark Cocker,

Book cover of One Midsummer's Day: Swifts and the Story of Life on Earth

Tom Mustill Author Of How to Speak Whale: The Power and Wonder of Listening to Animals

From the list on escaping into worlds of animal wonder.

Who am I?

I was first a biologist, working with endangered species. Then I switched and spent fifteen years making nature documentaries with people like Greta Thunberg and David Attenborough. Then a humpback whale breached onto me when I was kayaking, this led to a life-changing adventure culminating in my becoming involved in efforts to use AI to translate the communications of whales! I wrote about this for my first book. My great passion was always reading and in becoming a writer I get to go deeper and more playfully into my favorite parts of filmmaking – following heroic and fascinating people on their adventures, reading hundreds of complicated scientific papers, and finding ways to connect these.

Tom's book list on escaping into worlds of animal wonder

Discover why each book is one of Tom's favorite books.

Why did Tom love this book?

I read this book thinking I'd learn about a speedy little 40g bird that never stops flying and that people used to think flew to the moon in winter.

But the book is a non-fiction love song to all life on earth that spins outward weaving together everything it has taken to make a world that could have swifts in it. It is literally wonder-ful and a masterpiece.

By Mark Cocker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked One Midsummer's Day as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It takes a whole universe to make one small black bird

The bestselling author of Crow Country and writer of The Guardian's Country Diary tells the story of all life on Earth through a single day spent in the company of swifts.

'A jewel of a book' Caroline Lucas MP

Swifts are among the most extraordinary of all birds. Their migrations span continents and their twelve-week stopover, when they pause to breed in European rooftops, is the very definition of summer. They may nest in our homes but much about their lives passes over our heads. No birds are more…


Plant-Driven Design

By Scott Ogden, Lauren Springer Ogden,

Book cover of Plant-Driven Design: Creating Gardens That Honor Plants, Place, and Spirit

John Greenlee Author Of The American Meadow Garden: Creating a Natural Alternative to the Traditional Lawn

From the list on creating successful meadow and grass garden ecology.

Who am I?

As an expert in grass ecology and champion of sustainable design, John Greenlee has created meadows not only in the United States, but throughout the world for over 30 years. Some of his most notable gardens include the Getty Museum, the Norton Simon Museum in Los Angeles, and the savannas at Walt Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida. In addition to his consulting and design work for commercial and residential clients, John Greenlee enjoys sharing his knowledge by giving several presentations and lectures throughout the year on the use of natural lawns, native grasses, and meadow restoration.

John's book list on creating successful meadow and grass garden ecology

Discover why each book is one of John's favorite books.

Why did John love this book?

This book is perhaps the most important garden book of the last twenty years and one of my favorites.

The main premise is that plants matter and that the key to successful gardening and garden design is to know your plants and I could not agree more! I love the gorgeous photography and all the information by two of America's greatest horticulturalists.

By Scott Ogden, Lauren Springer Ogden,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Plant-Driven Design as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For too long, garden design has given pride of place to architecture, artifice, and arbitrary principles. The results? Soulless landscapes where plants play subordinate roles.

With passion and eloquence, Scott Ogden and Lauren Springer Ogden argue that only when plants are given the respect they deserve does a garden become emotionally resonant. Plant-Driven Design shows designers how to work more confidently with plants, and gives gardeners more confidence to design. The Ogdens boldly challenge design orthodoxy and current trends by examining how to marry plantsmanship and design without sacrificing one to the other.

Supported by extensive lists of plants adapted…


Mind and Nature

By Gregory Bateson, Gregory Bateson,

Book cover of Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity

Rex Weyler Author Of Greenpeace: The Inside Story

From the list on ecology from an ecologist.

Who am I?

Rex Weyler is a writer and ecologist. His books include Blood of the Land, a history of indigenous American nations, nominated for a Pulitzer Prize; Greenpeace: The Inside Story, a finalist for the BC Book Award and the Shaughnessy-Cohen Award for Political Writing; and The Jesus Sayings, a deconstruction of first-century history, a finalist for the BC Book Award. In the 1970s, Weyler was a co-founder of Greenpeace International and editor of the Greenpeace Chronicles. He served on campaigns to preserve rivers and forests, and to stop whaling, sealing, and toxic dumping.

Rex's book list on ecology from an ecologist

Discover why each book is one of Rex's favorite books.

Why did Rex love this book?

My all-time favourite ecology book, playfully but rigorously exploring complexity, co-evolution, a living systems language, and knowledge itself. “The major problems in the world,”  Bateson warned, “are the result of the difference between how nature works and the way people think.” In Bateson’s world, all divisions of nature are arbitrary. We only witness relationships, not things in themselves. Bateson links our mental process with evolutionary process and urges ecologists to see those patterns that connect the apparent parts of the whole. 

By Gregory Bateson, Gregory Bateson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mind and Nature as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A re-issue of Gregory Bateson's classic work. It summarizes Bateson's thinking on the subject of the patterns that connect living beings to each other and to their environment.


Book cover of The Ecology of Imagination in Childhood

David Sobel Author Of Wild Play: Parenting Adventures in the Great Outdoors

From the list on bonding your children with nature.

Who am I?

In 1972, I started an early childhood center in the Monadnock Region in New Hampshire. The focus was on child-centered education, with an emphasis on working with children outdoors. I've spent the last 50 years continuing to connect children with nature in schools, nature centers, national parks, museums, and in families. I taught graduate courses in developmental psychology, cognitive development, place-based education and have done hundreds of professional development workshops for early childhood and elementary school teachers. As a father, I focused on connecting my own children with nature. My son is a ski coach and runs an ecotourism kayaking business. My daughter is a theater director and writes grants for an environmental non-profit. 

David's book list on bonding your children with nature

Discover why each book is one of David's favorite books.

Why did David love this book?

Cobb's Ecology of Imagination is tough sledding. It's academic, abstruse, and also remarkably insightful. I still don't understand all of what she's saying, but what I do understand is her portrayal of the importance of middle childhood, "between the strivings of animal infancy and the storms of adolescence—when the natural world is experienced in some highly evocative way, producing in the child a sense of some profound continuity with natural processes….” Our goal, as parents, should be to find ways for our children to feel that "profound continuity with natural processes" during the middle childhood years of ages six to twelve. 

By Edith Cobb,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Ecology of Imagination in Childhood as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Is genius shaped by the imagination of childhood? Cobb's collection of autobiographies and biographies of creative people, as well as her observations of children's play, suggests just that. She sees the child to be innately connected with the natural world. Inner powers alone do not further the imagination. Her book remains an important philosophical meditation on the importance of children's deep experience of nature to their adult cognition and psychological well-being.